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Turkey: Kurdish forces emptied prison for ISIS militants in NE Syria

TURKEY/ SYRIA (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters have emptied a jail for Islamic State militants in a part of Syria where Turkey is launching an offensive, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Monday, adding the prisoners had been kidnapped.

Turkey launched a cross-border operation against the YPG in northeastern Syria last week after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw his troops from two positions in the region, a move that drew international criticism.

The Turkish offensive has raised concern it could cause Islamic State militants to flee Kurdish-run prisons in northern Syria and revive the group. Ankara has rejected those concerns.

Turkey’s stated objective is to clear the southern border area of ​​the YPG, which it considers a terrorist organization, and establish a 30-kilometer “safe zone” in Syrian territory that wants to settle millions of Syrian refugees. Ankara has also vowed to take over Islamic State militants in the safe zone, but has said it has nothing to do with other IS militants.

Akar told reporters in Ankara on Monday that the YPG had emptied the only Islamic State jail that Turkish forces had reached so far in the planned “safe zone” and that the inmates had already been transferred.

“As you know there is a prison issue in this ISIS issue,” he said. We are determined to show maximum effort on these prisons. However there is one prison in our area.”

“When we went there we found that he was emptied by the YPG and that the militants were kidnapped. We identified this through photos and videos and talked to our counterparts and we will continue to do so.”

Akar did not say how many prisoners were believed to have been transferred from the prison and did not elaborate on who and where. There is no comment from the YPG yet.

US President Donald Trump said in a series of tweets on Monday, without giving evidence, that Kurdish forces might deliberately free Islamic militants held captive by IS to push US troops back into the region.

He added that it would be “very easy for Turkey or the European countries from which many come from to be detained, but they should move quickly.”

Later on Monday, Turkish media released footage of what it said was a prison that the YPG had emptied in the center of Tall Abyad on the Turkish border. The footage showed Turkish soldiers wandering in the empty prison where cells were built.

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